The Washington Post Magazine runs a regular feature entitled “Mine” which invites its readers to share some small object in their lives that they treasure. Every week the Post runs one reader’s contribution which includes a picture of the object, a brief essay on its signigicance, and the author’s name, age, and occupation. Here are a few samples.
A 41-year-old museum specialist shared a red and black clay figure she made as a 6-year-old. She called it Little Man. The figure is meaningful to her because it is a “personal affirmation that I could do wonderful things.” A Holocaust educator, 45, shared a small portrait of his grandmother as a little girl painted in 1912. The portrait was hanging in her apartment when the Gestapo came with pistols and took her husband to Dachau. Her quick thinking saved the rest of the family. As the author holds his young son up to see the painting, he tells him, “This is the woman who saved your life and the lives of all her descendants—and when you’re old enough, I will tell you her story.” A third example is a combination lock for a locker. It is old and worn but its owner, a 74-year-old physicist, still uses it on an exercise room locker where he works. He writes, “Funny how you get attached to something that becomes a part of your life without realizing it.”
The articles inspired me to reflect on some of the small things in my own life that hold special meaning for me. One such thing is one of my
mother’s aprons. I often use it when I give talks, for it is a beautiful symbol of my mother’s love and caring. Another thing I treasure is my father’s old dented lunch pail. I keep it on top of the file cabinet in my office. It too is a concrete reminder of my father’s love and his daily hard work.
I visited the Czech Republic in 1995 with my parents and sister. While there I bought myself a small (2 in. by 1 1/2 in.) blue and white cup. It’s so pretty and it puts me in touch with my ancestry, for the Czechs are noted for their fine pottery. The cup also calls to mind a wonderful trip where I met relatives I had never seen before. The cup is tiny which means I can easily take it with me when I move from place to place.
While reflecting on all of this, I wrote this short prayer about small things:
Small things…a cup…an apron…a lunch pail,
a spoon…a scarf…a hoe…a snapshot…a ring.
Not worth much by the standards of the world,
yet deeply treasured for what they mean to us.
Perhaps they evoke a special moment in our childhood,
a mother’s love…a father’s daily toil,
a grandfather’s devotion to gardening,
a grandmother’s fidelity to the only man she ever loved.
Jesus appreciated small things too: a fine piece of wood,
a sturdy rock…a lost coin…a cup of wine.
He valued a patch of lilies…mother hens…tiny seeds…
fives loaves and two fishes…
and two small coins clinking into the Temple treasury.
Let us ask this Jesus to make us more mindful of our personal history,
more appreciative of the ordinary,
and more grateful for the small things in our lives
that mean so much to us. Amen.
Now it’s your turn. Survey the objects you have. Is there any small object that holds special meaning for you? If so, I invite you to tell us about it…
PS: This week I’m facilitating a retreat at Chiara Center in Springfield, Illinois. Please say a prayer for both the retreatants and for me! I would be most grateful!